The work of the North South Ministerial Council is supported by a standing Joint Secretariat, staffed by members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Irish Civil Service. The Secretariat is based in Armagh.
The Secretariat is headed by two Joint Secretaries who were appointed by the Administrations, North and South. Mrs Mary Madden is the Northern Ireland Joint Secretary and Mr Shane O'Neill is the Southern Joint Secretary. The Joint Secretaries are assisted by two Deputy Joint Secretaries.
'The Joint Secretariat will effectively and efficiently support and facilitate the North South Ministerial Council in developing consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland on matters of mutual interest within the competence of both administrations.'
The functions of the Joint Secretariat include:
- Arranging the schedule of Council meetings in different formats
- Securing prior political agreement to agendas for meetings of the Council
- Preparing or commissioning papers for meetings of the Council, including in relation to its work programme
- Drafting Joint Communiqués and Records of Decisions of the Council
- Communicating decisions of the Council and monitoring their implementation
- Drafting an annual report on the proceedings of the Council,
- Acting as a channel of communication with Implementation Bodies and facilitating their development
- Liaising, where appropriate, through the designated Department or Office in either jurisdiction, with the Secretariat of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the Secretariat of the British Irish Council, the North South Inter-Parliamentary Association and with the independent consultative forum, if established
- Carrying out such other tasks as the Council may direct
- The costs of meetings of the North South Ministerial Council are borne by the host administration, with travel and subsistence costs for Ministers and officials being borne by their Administrations
- Staff costs associated with the Joint Secretariat are met separately by the two Administrations
- All other costs associated with the Joint Secretariat or the Council are divided equally between the two Administrations.